- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2007

They come to the Verizon Center by the bus- and minivan load. The seats are full of insurance salesman and software sales forces. There are Realtors, stockbrokers and people who sell widgets. There are teenagers and senior citizens.

Not present at the Get Motivated! seminar? Cynics, naysayers, pessimists, skeptics and Debbie Downer.

It seems everyone can learn something from a motivational speaker. It is just up to you to listen to the message and discover what you are going to do with the information. Or, if the voice of the guy in a suit up on the stage is still ringing in your head: “It is up to you. What are you going to do” — strong emphasis on “you.”

It has been six years since the people at Get Motivated! started putting on megashows like the one offered in downtown Washington earlier this month. About 14,000 people come to glean information from, among others, boxer Sugar Ray Leonard, the Rev. Robert Schuller, retired Gen. Colin L. Powell and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar.

From 9 to 5, no widgets are sold or houses shown or deals signed by the force in attendance. There is instead information about how to achieve financial success, how to close the sale, how to believe in yourself, how to change your life.

“It’s a huge buffet,” says Peter Lowe, chief executive of Get Motivated! and a popular speaker at the event. “People are able to come in for a day, … and hopefully it will be life-transforming. Someone who speaks from the heart can truly change lives. We like to say we are not for information; we are for transformation.”

Laurie Forbes of Greenbelt is taking copious notes between speakers. The 31-year-old is an editor at CoStar, a commercial real estate firm. She says she is trying to set reachable goals, such as earning a $100,000 annual paycheck four years from now.

“I am learning how to put that in motion,” Ms. Forbes says. “Robert Schuller said a lot of things that already make sense. It is up to you to implement [them] in your own life. You have to know when you are at a plateau and when you have to do something to move forward.”

Ms. Forbes also listens and learns from investment trainer Phil Town. She opts not to sign up for his investor education program (price: $6,289). She also passes on the home study program (price: $995). Money like that needs to stay in her account if she is going to reach her financial goals.

“What I learned is that you can invest on your own,” she says. “You don’t have to go through a fund manager. You don’t need Success magazine. There are free information and tools out there.”

Still, Ms. Forbes is ready to put her plan in place.

“I have personal financial goals,” she says. “No one is really saying anything I don’t already know. This information here is packaged in a way that makes it exciting.”

Physiology and breakthroughs

On the stage flanked by flags that say “Inspire!” and “Success!” Mr. Lowe, a frenetic redhead who has been in the motivational business for 26 years, is addressing the crowd. The stage pyrotechnics greeting his arrival have faded into hot dust.

“Join me and say, ‘Yeah!’ ”

Thousands pump their fists in the air and yell in unison.

Mr. Lowe’s talk is about physiology — about how the way you breathe and look have an effect on your mood and attitude. “Did you ever hear anyone smile and yell, ‘Hey — I am really depressed today’?” he asks the crowd. “If you are slumped down and say it, you will become depressed. Physiology is important if you want breakthroughs.”

We all need to create breakthroughs, Mr. Lowe says, be they financial or spiritual, in our career or in our relationships.

Similarly, minds are controlled by the words we speak, Mr. Lowe says. Words determine our experiences.

“Words are like the rudder of the ship,” he tells the crowd. “They determine the direction and destiny of our lives. … If you say, ‘I’m feeling great. People love buying from me.’ Speak aloud the outcome you desire.”

Better yet, say it as though it already has happened, he says. Not “I am going to do it,” but “I’ve done this before, and I will do it again.”

Mr. Lowe pulls a young woman out of the audience and tells her she can break a wooden board just like a tae kwon do expert if she only believes in herself, tells herself she can do it and uses strength, assertiveness and confidence.

“Can you do this? Say ‘Yes,’ ” he tells the woman. “Winners don’t give up. All things are possible to those who believe.”

The woman believes and practices. She tries to punch the board in half. She tries again. She admits where she made a mistake. She tries again.

She never does break the board — but she didn’t give up, so Mr. Lowe’s message, at least, had a breakthrough.

Only ‘no’ this time

It is not that there are secrets locked in the Verizon Center on this muggy morning. It is that everyone could use a chance to step away and “re-engage and reignite the passion for what they do,” says Phil Simonides, a Great Falls financial planner.

“I run my office, and I thought this would be a great field trip,” says Mr. Simonides, dressed for the day off of work in a Hawaiian shirt and a suntan. “These speakers have great messages. There is definitely something to be learned with different perspectives and stories to tell.”

What Mr. Simonides finds inspiring is that most of the speakers overcame some adversity before achieving success.

When you are in sales, as Mr. Simonides and thousands of others attending Get Motivated! are, adversity can come every day in the form of “thanks anyway,” or “I have all the insurance I need.” Pep talks can go a long way in pushing past rejection.

“Sales has so much potential for rejection,” Mr. Simonides says. “You are always going to reach challenges. It is not for everyone. But salespeople make the most money in this country; they are the most fun at parties. [What I have learned] is that ‘no’ doesn’t mean ‘no, you are a bad person.’ It is not ‘no’ to your success. It is ‘no’ this time — until you ask again.”

That is a message the group of Realtors from Keller Williams Preferred Properties in Upper Marlboro takes to heart. The Realtors arrive at Get Motivated! as a unit — all clad in red Keller Williams shirts and pins. A team spirit, after all, begets a winning spirit.

Realtor Dominique Thomas-Jones listens carefully to what investment expert Phil Town has to say. She hopes to be comfortable enough (“business is great,” she beams) to decide if she is going to be rich or wealthy.

“You are wealthy if you have enough assets paying you,” she says. “I can then say ‘I don’t need to go to work.’ ”

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